Thursday, July 17, 2014

Putrajaya Maritime Centre Sunrise Shooting

It's holiday and its really difficult to get off the bed around 6 a.m. Initially I plan to visit the Putrajaya Mosque for the sunrise shot but I accidentally took the wrong way and end up at the Putrajaya Maritime Center near to Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside. The sky looks dull and cloudy. I carry all my gears and went scouting around anyway since I am already there. So, I found this place which facing the east where there are few government buildings across the river and a bridge and start setting up my equipment. The best time for a sunrise shot for me is 10 mins before sunrise. The lights on the building is still on and the sun will shine on the clouds (if there is any) making them turns red and orange.

A creative way to hold the filter without the filter holder
I have own this square ND filter for quite some times already but hardly use them because it always produce softer and some purple tint on the image. The purple tint is difficult to remove sometimes.
10 mins before sunrise, I reduce the highlight and increase the saturation of the image in post processing.

If you are using a wide angle lens, watch out the edge of the frame as it would distort the buildings, pole, trees near the corner. So, try not to put your subject right at the side or corner because they would bend and doesn't look right.

The purple tint is hard to remove. I have straighten the building on the left in post processing.

Next I want to talk about composition. It's not about just putting everything into the frame. Use the image below as example, I use 2 of the trees as a "frame" to bound the image, so you would look into the shot. Try include some subject, such as a person jogging, or even a bird fly pass. Often, clouds line, pole, barrier can use to guide the viewer eyes into the photo.

The sun have risen but it is block by the building while the jogger pass by the scene.

The photo below illustrate how the green tint appear in the middle of the frame because I have to apply it to cover the purple tint overall. It's collateral damage. Again, the clouds in the sky play important role to enhance the image. It would look dull if there is no cloud in the sky.

The foreground give the perception of depth in the frame but the tint is kind of irritating.

I merge the photo using a software named Microsoft ICE because the ease of use and good output  it produced. The image below merges 7-8 photos which covers more than 220 degrees. This is the exact view you would expect on the roof of the new university which is still under construction. 


Here is the single shot on the roof of the university. A construction worker is actually sleeping beside the corridor while I'm taking all these shots. He is not even aware! Composition wise, the barrier leads the viewers eyes into the frame again. You will also noticed how the building at the left side of the frame bends.

On top of the "green" building. I can see PICC on my right.
Lastly, always a good idea to keep the landscape shot level 99% of the time. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Street Photography around KL with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ft. Tokina 12-24mm f/4

Somehow I'm still haunted by the incident where a con-man pretending to be victim of snatch-theft. The money is not much, but I lost my faith on trusting someone easily. There was one incident where by a foreigner holding a map asking for direction. From far I am able to tell that he is going to talk to me. I was so afraid that I just shake my head and move on even before he try to speak. "Where is Lowyat?", he asked. I just point the direction without saying a word. I just being paranoid.

Put that aside, street photography is always my favourite, because you can do it any where and any time. The difficult part is to have the courage to point your camera at the one that noticed you who are going to get their picture taken. The trick is to shoot when they are concentrating on something else, such as talking to vendor, or their friends. Otherwise, just shoot from their behind, but the impact would be less desirable. Here are few samples.

She looks aright until you see her hand, what a waste. 
She try very hard to capture the fountain with her smart phone. She hardly move for few minutes.

The girl decided to break the rules instead of waiting the lights turn green. So, she pulls her boyfriend's hand to cross the road with her.

A happy family walk around the park.

Selfie-stick vendor is everywhere!
Shooting at a moderate aperture in day time such as f/4-5.6 allows you to reduce the chances of miss focuses and use relatively fast shutter speed, such as 1/100s to freeze moving subject.

After few hours wondering from Lowyat to KLCC, I'm tired, thirsty and hungry. Before turn around and leave, she get my attention. I was on my Tokina 12-24mm f/4 when I noticed her posing. She really know how to pose. I quickly change my lens to 30mm and manage to grab 1 shot which is in focus. The light condition is so poor that the Sigma struggle to focus, at f/1.4 particularly. So, that's the shot of the day to end my holiday.

She standstill for almost 15 seconds, I was shooting at 1/5 seconds because my Tokina only goes down to f/4!

Finally, I manage to get 1 shot in focus after 3-4 attempts. 
 Did I say my DSLR is dead before? :-P

Monday, July 7, 2014

Budget Macro Photography : Meike Auto Extension Tube

Macro photography can be an interesting type of photography you might want to do, but it can be quite expensive to own a real macro lens. There are few options for real macro lens that would be compatible with full-frame and crop camera, namely:
  • Nikon 105mm f/2.8 ED VR
  • Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM IS L
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS
  • Tamron 90mm f/2.8 VC 

There are all above RM1000 range and even some model such as Nikon 40mm f/2.8 would also cost slightly below RM1000 point. Fortunately, there are few alternatives for creating macro works with cheaper equipment.
  • Close-up Filter
  • Extension Tube

I don't have experience with the close up filter and only have use the extension tube before. There are 2 kind of extension tube. One with electronic contact point, so you can maintain autofocus and exposure control from the camera body. The other one is without electronic contact. If you are using the latter one, your f-stop value will be F-- for Nikon body. You will need to judge the exposure by try and error. For the auto extension tube, there are many manufacturers and variants that produce it. Kenko (best quality) and Meike are among the more common brands you can get in Malaysia with price varies from RM250 to RM500++. Please take note that Meike did produce the auto extension tube with plastic mount and metal mount. For better quality and versatility, go for the metal mount although is a little bit pricey. 

Although it can retain the autofocus of most lenses, but its recommended to use focal length 50 and above. In general, the longer the focal length, the longer the minimum focus distance of the lens. This gives space for the extension tube to bring closer your subject (to allow you focus closer), and thus increase your lens native magnification ratio. Therefore, I recommend to use the extension tube with 50, 85mm prime, or even 70-300, 70-200 telephoto zoom. Forget your kit lens (18-55mm) if you intend to use it with, because you don't have much distance to work on with extension tube on it.

Here is how close you can shoot on a new 20 cents coin using all 3 segments of the extension tubes (12mm, 20mm, 36mm) stack up together with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D prime. 
Nikon D90, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D with Meike Auto Extension Tube + Nikon SB-600 @ 1/64 power | ISO 200 | 1/80s | f/22
The setup of the extension tube with 50mm prime.
Compare it with only the 50mm alone, this is as close as you can focus on the coin without using the extension tube (minimum focus distance of 0.45m for nikon version).
Nikon D90, Nikon 50mm f/1.8 D without extension tube | ISO 800 | 1/60s | f/2.8

How to use extension tube for macro photography:
  1. Mount the extension tube section from the smallest size to the largest one. You want to make sure your lens is still able to focus on the subject before adding another one.
  2. Set the camera exposure to manual. You can use the aperture priority to get a rough estimation of correct exposure and dialled in to maintain consistent exposure throughout the shooting. This includes your flash power as well. 
  3. Use Manual Focus, again, although the lens still retain auto focus function, you often want to get as close as possible for largest magnification. To archive that, adjust the focus ring to the closest that the lens can focus. and start moving closer or further away from the subject to acquire focus.
  4. Using smaller aperture, such as f/16 or f/22 because in macro, the depth of field is very limited. You might not be able to get the whole subject in focus. That's why dedicated macro lens can have aperture up to f/40 for more depth of field.
  5. Use a tripod with macro focus rail. With this, you can pinpoint where the focus point more consistently than handheld. You can do focus stacking as well with the macro rail where you shoot different part of the subject in focus and merge them in post processing. If you want to know more, you can search more on focus stacking.
  6. Use remote flash if possible. You can use TTL-cord or flash trigger if you have. This is because the subject you shooting is often very close with your camera. You on-camera flash might not be able to illuminate the subject.
  7. If you are using a heavy telephoto lens, such as 70-200, you better mount the lens on the tripod instead of the camera body. The extension tube might not be able to hold the weight of the lens on the body and you would likely ends up damaging both the lens and body mount.
You can mount it on telephoto zoom get better working distance for shooting the macro, especially shooting insects. Below is just an example you can shoot macro using extension tube with telephoto zoom.
Nikon D90, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR, Nikon SB-600 @ 1/64 power with 3 segment of Ext tube | ISO 200 | 1/125s | f/11
If you are interested in macro and cannot affort the macro lens, the macro extension tube is a good way to start. You will soon realize its limitation that you need more depth of field (f/40) and further focusing distance for shooting small insects. Then you may upgrade to real macro lens and you will never looked back. It's a stepping stone that worth investing in my opinion. In photography, you stop growing when you stop learning.